As long as there have been romantic movies, there has been the surprise romantic dinner trope. In these scenes, the suitor has prepared (or, increasingly, ordered out) a lovely table of food, framed by a crisp white tablecloth and the soft glow of glimmering candles. It's the stuff of what some scholars call media's portrayal of "unrealistic romance," and what Twilight fanfiction writers everywhere call "a brilliant plot device."
Expanding on that old adage that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, these films show us that a well-planned meal is (in all but one notable exception) an ideal way to both light that first spark or rekindle the flame. Because sometimes the food of love isn't poetry or dance or even wit...it's food.
Find out which dreamy dinners a deux made our list after the jump.
Rundown: In this city-mouse-meets-country-mouse romance, Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry share their different backgrounds through favorite foods: For him, it's Gray's Papaya straight from NYC; for her, it's her Mexican grandmother's Albondigas soup. But in this surprise dinner for two - set up in the middle of the under-construction Vegas club where Perry works, and complete with milk chilling in a paint bucket - the couple reconnect over a plain cheese pizza.
On the Menu: Takeout pizza and chilled milk.
Memorable Line: "I want you to be the first guest...at our best table."
Rundown: This romantic dinner aboard a millionaire's yacht is a surprise to both Marilyn Monroe and her would-be suitor, played by Tony Curtis in this famous, cross-dresser comedy. Masquerading as the millionaire, Curtis escorts Monroe aboard the yacht and is delighted to discover (after trying a few doors) a fine evening spread, bubbly included. Not that the food gets much attention once Monroe's pillowy lips pucker.
On the Menu: Cold pheasant with mint or cranberry sauce and champagne.
Memorable Line: "Have you ever tried American girls?"
Rundown: J-Lo's latest romantic comedy may not have won over many critics or audiences, but the romantic dinner in the middle of a New York City community garden is beyond lush. As Lopez's love interest, Australian heartthrob Alex O'Loughlin leads her into the twinkling, leafy wonderland and pours the wine. While this scene begins as pure magic, its silly end in wacky antics when the tablecloth catches fire does at least serve as a good warning: Be careful with candles.
On the Menu: Takeout pizza and wine.
Memorable Line: "I know how to milk a goat...that do anything for ya?"
Rundown: In this much-maligned remake of the classic Dudley Moore film, comedian Russell Brand stars as an eccentric billionaire in love with a delightful every-girl. In a sweeping gesture, Brand closes out Grand Central Station for 45 minutes to surprise her with a romantic meal for two (a silver tray heaped with colorful Pez candy), completing the ambience with performing acrobats. Wildly decadent and quirky (and not very filling), this meal certainly has the element of surprise.
On the Menu: Pez, served in dispensers designed in their likenesses.
Memorable Line: "You know, as soon as I saw you, I knew I wanted to eat candy bricks out of your neck hole."
Rundown: Proving that even cannibal serial killers aren't immune to the pulls of pop-culture romance, Anthony Hopkins' unforgettable Hannibal turns uncomfortably sentimental and surprises Agent Starling (this time played by Julianne Moore) with a glass of wine, soup, and a main course that shocked theater audiences around the country. No stranger to the finer things - indeed, he could have been butler to a king in another life - Hannibal knows how to set a table. That is, however, where the romance ends.
On the Menu: Unfortunately, Sweetbreads a la Ray Liotta. No fava beans or Chianti in sight.
Memorable Line: "If you can't be polite to our guests, you have to sit at the kiddies' table."
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